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Rising stars set to light up our Sports Awards gala

By Adam McKendry

The future is bright in Northern Ireland sport, and that will be reflected at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards ceremony on Monday night at the Waterfront Hall.

The Young Player of the Year Award, sponsored by giant sports supplier Decathlon, will recognise the achievements of a young sports star under the age of 19 over the past year.

Not only that, but it also serves as a sign that they are destined for great things when they enter the professional ranks of their sport, should they choose to go down that path.

This year there is a four strong nominations list, all of whom are right at the top of their sports, and all of whom have an excellent chance of walking away with the trophy at the end of the night.

Wheelchair racer Jack Agnew has had a sublime year, the recipient of Mary Peters Trust funding battling injury to compete at the World Junior Para-Athletics Championships where he excelled.

He came home with four medals to his name after some outstanding racing, finishing with a haul of two golds in the 1500m and 800m, silver in the 400m and bronze and a personal best time in the 200m.

The young para-athlete has had such an exemplary year that he’s also been nominated for our Sports Person with a Disability Award.

He faces strong competition in the Young Player category, however, as he’ll be competing with two swimmers in the form of pool stars Conor Ferguson and Mona McSharry.

It was an historic year for Ferguson, who became the first ever Irish swimmer to pick up a medal at the World Junior Championships in Indianapolis in August, taking silver in the 100m backstroke.

That added to another silver he won in the 50m backstroke at the European Junior Championships in Israel a month before, making it an excellent haul for the Bangor-trained swimmer.

McSharry, who trains in Donegal, also had great success as she took three medals at the European Juniors — gold in the 50m and 100m breaststrokes and silver in the 200m breaststroke — before another superb World showing.

In Indianapolis she became the first Irish swimmer to take gold as she won the 100m breaststroke, and added a bronze in the 50m as well to finish what was a truly special year.

Also in the running is Lisburn cyclist Xeno Young, who also had a spectacular 2017 as he won several medals as well.

Young picked up silver in the Men’s Junior Individual Pursuit at the UEC Junior and U23 Track European Championships in Portugal back in July, and then followed that by winning the same medal at the World Championships in Italy in August.

French sport retailers Decathlon, the largest of its kind in the world, sponsor the Young Player of the Year Award and have been heavily involved with local sport since setting up its first store at Holywood Exchange, particularly in athletics.

“Decathlon are delighted to be involved with the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards,” says Marketing and Events Manager Richard Larmour.

“At Decathlon Belfast we are heavily involved with many different organisations and communities throughout the province. We have supported a wide range of events and will continue to do so in the future.

“The Young Player of the Year is an award that we were keen to sponsor.

“The commitment and dedication shown by these young athletes to achieve their goals is remarkable and highlights the talent that is being produced within Northern Ireland.”

Belfast Telegraph

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